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Elizabeth Atkins  

Best-Selling Author & Screenwriter

Don't be fooled by the vanilla hue of my skin, It doesn't even hint of the chocolate shades of my kin. Green eyes emphasize this genetic potpourri, An exotic mix of Italian, African American, and Cherokee.

That's a taste of the autobiographical poem "White Chocolate" by Elizabeth Atkins, an award-winning author on race in America as well as a noted biographer, who speaks on topics surrounding multiracial identity and interracial families.

With her memoir scheduled for publication in the summer of 2013, Atkins shares an uplifting message about color-blind love. As the daughter of an African American judge and a former Roman Catholic priest of English, French Canadian, and Cherokee descent, Atkins recounts how her parents courageously defied religious and racial opposition during the 1960s when interracial marriage was illegal in some states.

Her research focuses on mixed-race Americans, a concentration she first developed in her master's thesis at Columbia University's Journalism School. She is the author of the bestsellers White Chocolate and Dark Secret, as well as her latest book Twilight, written with actor Billy Dee Williams.

An acclaimed biographer, she has written from the perspective of a wide range of individuals, including a quadriplegic man living his dream as CEO of a record company, a surgeon on a mission to eliminate obesity, and an insurance agent creating a glamorous thriller about corruption.

She has been featured as a race expert on The Montel Williams Show, Good Morning America Sunday, CBS Evening News, NPR, and many local and national TV shows. She has written for The New York Times, The San Diego Tribune, Essence, Hour, and BLAC Detroit. She was a guest on The Tyra Banks Show to discuss an article she had written for Ebony about racism within the black community.

As a diversity speaker, Elizabeth Atkins inspired standing ovations for her keynote at an NAACP banquet and for performing her autobiographical poem "White Chocolate" at a prominent Detroit church. The former Fox 2 News writer has lectured at GM's World Diversity Day, Gannett, Columbia University, Levy Home Entertainment, Comerica Bank, the Association of Multi-Ethnic Americans, the University of Michigan, the American Library Association, Beaumont Hospital's Diversity Symposium, and the Oakland County Employment Diversity Council.

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White Chocolate: Savoring the Bitter & the Sweet in My Unique Racial Mix

Some people doubled over with laughter. Others stood in stunned silence. "Now that I know you're black," a guy said, "I don't know if I still want to date you." Other guys just didn't. Meanwhile, women surrounded her at a black journalists' conference, demanding to know why she was there. A woman at a black college event refused to speak to her.

For speaker Elizabeth Atkins, stepping through life with no pigment to prove that her mother was black has been both bitter and sweet. It's forced her to figure out who she is and why she embodies this bizarre space in the vast, treacherous terrain of race in America. While it would be easy to wallow in bitterness, she loves to whip up a sweet white chocolate fondue of stories and insights that educate and entertain about life, love, and identity. In doing so, she serves up tips on how to evolve from embarrassed and afraid to passionate and purposeful. Performing her seven-minute, autobiographical poem "White Chocolate," Atkins illuminates this message: we can all transform our most painful challenges into empowering inspiration for ourselves and others.

Color-Blind Love: My Family’s Story of Race, Religion & Courage

What happens when a Roman Catholic priest scandalously leaves the Church during the turbulent 1960s and marries a black woman 25 years his junior? Well, after the bishop damned him and his wife to hell, his mother told the family to consider him dead and he faced threats during the Detroit Race Riot.

Despite this turbulent start, they were happily married for 24 years and brought two girls into the world.

Speaker Elizabeth Atkins proudly recounts her parents' pioneering story of shattering race and religion barriers before the Supreme Court "legalized" interracial marriage and the Church experienced a mass exodus of priests. When her father baptized her in her hospital room, he asked God to make her a “princess of peace” to embody his family's color-blind love. Atkins shares how their story inspired her to serve as a messenger of human harmony as an author, journalist, speaker, actress, poet, and citizen.

How to Use Your Life Story to Help & Heal Yourself & Others

"You look like you stuck your finger in a light socket!" kids teased. Elizabeth Atkins' face would burn with embarrassment, her heart would pound, and she would stare longingly at her girlfriends wearing popular Farrah Fawcett and Dorothy Hammill hairstyles. She confined her long, frizzy curls to a braid or bun.

"Hey, Elizabeth, I heard your mom's a N-----!" said her teenage crush over the phone. And while one boy told her, "I can't date you anymore because you're mulatto," another said, "We can't go out; I don't want anyone to think I'm with a white girl." Atkins longed to do the impossible: fit in and be liked just as she was. She felt so alone and alien: the world had yet to discover Mariah Carey, Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, or Barack Obama.

But in college, she met other people with her story and became empowered. In graduate school, she wrote her story into her thesis. And during her first newspaper job, her life inspired her first novel, White Chocolate. Sharing her story enables her to embrace and celebrate who she is and empowers others to do the same. That's why speaker Elizabeth Atkins encourages audiences to share their story, for they just might ease the suffering of others.

On Being a Biographer: Drawing the Line Between Business & Pleasure

As a biographer, Elizabeth Atkins has worked on books with ten men - including a Hollywood actor and many businessmen - in offices, hotel rooms, beautiful homes, and even a private airplane.

"Can I kiss you?" one man interrupted as she interviewed him at his desk. "No," she answered then, as always.

Obviously, the relationship between a biographer and her subject is ripe for romance. It requires tremendous trust and excellent chemistry for men to divulge their deepest secrets and trust Atkins to weave them into words for others to read in a book. But she always draws the line on the right side of appropriate.

Crossing that line sparked the disaster that cost David Petraeus his rank as CIA director and shined a spotlight on the perils of this work. As a female biographer, speaker Elizabeth Atkins says her top rule is to never mix business with pleasure - especially when the man is married. While sharing real scenarios in her presentations, she stresses the importance of maintaining professionalism and integrity so that the relationship culminates in a best-selling book, not a scandal.

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